Friday, May 17, 2013

Phenology: Flower and Butterfly Pictures

I wanted to share some flower and butterfly images, and instead of waiting for somebody to send this web site exclusive digital pictures, I went to Morguefile and ganked a few pictures that look like the flowers and butterflies I saw on the way to the computer center this morning.

White clover has been blooming for several days...

...and today I saw the first red clover bloom...

These pictures, courtesy of, may be misleading about the size difference in these plants and their blooms. On the computer I'm using, the red clover and the smaller, more distant white clover blossoms look about life-size; the one that's too close to the camera, and looks blurry, looks magnified to me.

The Zebra Swallowtail who's been flitting about the Cat Sanctuary is still here; while some moths live only a day or a week after emerging from their cocoons, swallowtail butterflies live about six weeks...

The Morguefile user who posted this image, which could have been our Zebra sitting on the gravel road but isn't, identified it as "Strange Butterfly." Zebra Swallowtails are strange; they're the only North American representative of a tropical family called Kite Swallowtails. They're a little smaller than our other Swallowtails, and have different body shapes. They usually start out with equally long "tails" on each hind wing, but the function of the "tails" is to break off when grabbed by birds.

We also have our first generation of Tiger Swallowtails:

Either male or female Tigers can look like the picture above, but some females look like this:

Although the black-winged female gets some survival advantage from looking like other kinds of Swallowtails that taste bad to birds, the male can recognize her by size (she's as big as he is) and scent. If these two butterflies mate, their offspring will resemble one parent or the other. They do not, as folklore suggests, produce this distinctive (and smaller) species:

I grew up calling dark female Tigers "Black Swallowtails" and the smaller species "Royal Swallowtails," and believing that they were hybrids between Black and Tiger Swallowtails. This is erroneous. The smaller swallowtails with the bands of yellow spots are one of two Swallowtails found in Europe--the darker species--and are officially known as Black Swallowtails, although some female Tiger Swallowtails are blacker. Baby Black Swallowtails are also called Parsley Caterpillars because, although they naturally eat weeds, they enjoy parsley when they can get it. (Baby Tiger Swallowtails usually eat leaves found at the tops of tall trees; we seldom see them.)

At the Cat Sanctuary this year we've also seen Spring Azures...

...and this small, common species...

And Skippers. Here, below the dwarf iris blossom, is a Silver-Spotted Skipper, holding its wings straight up above its back as they often do. I suspect this photo was posed by a human. I've seen far more Silver-Spotted Skippers on garbage than on flowers.

Today's the first time I've seen one of these sulphur butterflies this spring:


Finally, although I didn't look for anything similar on Morguefile...our yellow iris is in full bloom, and how it is blooming this year. As if the plants had resolved not to be outdone by the "giant iris" when and if it gets around to blooming, this year the yellow iris blooms, which are normally about two feet tall, are shooting up three and four feet tall. In a way it's alarming. I don't know whether it means the plant is thriving on this year's weather, or sending up one last bloom before it dies. All I know for sure is that I didn't have to bend over to sniff this morning's new iris blossom.